President Obama and other top U.S. officials won’t be part of the country’s delegation attending the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, in February.
Instead, the White House announced Tuesday it will send a number of lower-rung functionaries along with two former athletes who are openly gay.
Former Olympic women’s ice-hockey medalist Caitlin Cahow and ex-Olympic tennis coach and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Billie Jean King will be in Sochi. Both are out lesbians.
Here's what King tweeted following the announcement:
The makeup of the delegation highlights the tension between the U.S. and Russia over the latter’s adoption of anti-gay laws earlier this year.
It’s unclear to what extend Russian officials intend to enforce the laws against athletes and spectators at the games. But their mere existence has provoked the ire of many U.S. athletes in politicians.
"This law is a tragedy for the LGBT community in Russia," American Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir, who is openly gay, told ABC News in August.
"I'll take proper precautions, but at the same time, I won't stop being myself," he said. "I won't stop being Johnny Weir, the gay, fabulous ice skater person walking down the street."
The delegation will be led by former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who is now president of the University of California system.
Rob Nabors, assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for policy, will be the highest-ranking official attending the opening ceremony. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns is the top representative at the closing ceremony.
High-ranking U.S. officials have been a part of past Olympic delegations. First Lady Michelle Obama led the American delegation to the London games in 2012. Vice President Joe Biden, his wife Dr. Jill Biden, and Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett all traveled to Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics. President George W. Bush himself traveled to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Other members of the Sochi delegation include U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, Olympic figure skating gold medalist Brian Boitano, five-time speed skating gold medalist Eric Heiden and Bonnie Blair, also a five-time gold medalist in speed skating.
Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.